Gigaom

Since he hit his fundraising target and launched App.net back in August, there have been few more vocal advocates for paid social networks and products than entrepreneur Dalton Caldwell. You and your data are not the product we’re selling to advertisers, he promised his backers and audience, as part of an experiment to see if users will pay for quality and ownership.

But when Caldwell’s “audacious proposal” of a paid social network opens its doors on Monday at no cost to users who receive invites from existing members for a freemium membership, it will no doubt raise questions as to whether Caldwell’s notion has failed. Critics will surely point to low membership numbers as evidence that Caldwell simply had to open his doors to stay relevant, and might say that providing the service for free totally invalidates Caldwell’s central premise.

However, Caldwell argues that companies like Dropbox and…

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